Deadpool unmasked: Here’s everything you need to know about Marvel’s anti-hero

Deadpool is an enigma.

This loudmouthed anti-hero’s secretive nature has more to do with his tendency toward dishonesty than any actual air of mystery. Particularly as the character has gained mainstream popularity, many people have found themselves with unending questions about this costumed chatterbox. Once relatively obscure, Deadpool entered the mainstream in 2016 thanks to Ryan Reynolds’ flawless depiction of him. Marvel and 20th Century Fox invited the character into the homes and hearts of audiences worldwide with Deadpool; the Merc With a Mouth’s sequel, Deadpool 2; and the sequel’s kid-friendly recut, Once Upon a Deadpool. Yes, we will be ignoring that dumpster fire of a character from X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Deadpool gains scores of new fans every day, but many find themselves at a loss when it comes to his background. For all your confusing, invasive and somewhat inappropriate questions, we gathered everything you need to know about Deadpool.

Deadpool’s origins

Deadpool - New Mutants Comics Explained/YouTube

The Merc With a Mouth first graced pages back in 1991, when Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza wrote him into an issue of The New Mutants. The violent anti-hero we know and love was initially written as a villain. But, he gradually transformed into the more recognizable character audiences are now familiar with.

When the character was first thought up, Nicieza noted his similarities to the DC character Deathstroke, aka Slade Wilson. As a coy nod to his shared traits with the DC villain, the writers named Deadpool Wade Wilson. They established the long-running joke that Wade and Slade Wilson were “related,” which writers from both companies played into. The morally ambiguous character had bit parts in a number of comics for years before Marvel finally decided to give him a standalone title. Known for breaking the fourth wall, Deadpool became a niche favorite, particularly due to his satirical take on superhero—and anti-hero—tropes.

Wade Wilson

Wade Wilson is Canadian-born, much like Wolverine, who partly served as inspiration for the character. Wade’s healing factor came from the Weapon X program, which aimed to create an army of living weapons. Before all that, however, he was the child of an abusive father.

Wade Wilson Variant Comics/YouTube

Marvel has outlined a number of different potential childhoods for Wade. In one version, the scientist Butler tricked Wade into killing his parents. In other tellings of his past, however, Wade appeared to come from an unfortunate, dysfunctional household. The comics portrayed his father as violent and abusive, and Wade clearly resented him as a teenager.

Wade Wilson - mercenary Deadpool/Marvel Comics

At 17, Wade joined the military. His tenure there didn’t last long. Shortly following his exit from the armed forces, Wade became an assassin. In one story arc, he came across a lovely couple named Wade and Mercedes Wilson, who he murdered in pursuit of stealing Wade’s identity. That is almost exactly what happened to Logan, aka Wolverine, in an old story arc, so we can assume it is probably not canon. Add to this that T-Ray, one of Deadpool’s most prominent nemeses, is the one who shared that version of history, and we have very little faith in this particular tale.

Honestly, with Deadpool, who the hell knows?

Weapon X

After a few years as a contract killer, Wade discovered he had an incurable form of cancer. He said goodbye to the life he created for himself when a program called Weapon X offered its assistance. While he never had high hopes for success, Wade volunteered as a test subject for the Canadian torture club. What followed was an undetermined amount of time in Weapon X’s clutches, during which scientists conducted horrific experiments on him in an attempt to imbue him with superhuman abilities. Victims of the Weapon X program began making bets on when they and their fellows would die, a betting pool which they called the “deadpool.”

Deadpool - Killebrew Deadpool/Marvel Comics

Wade was deemed a failure after he assisted a friend, who’d been lobotomized, in committing suicide. He was sent to Dr. Killebrew, who handled the failed experiments ejected from Weapon X. While Killebrew is probably not familiar to most people, moviegoers will recognize his assistant, Francis Freeman.

Deadpool - Ajax Deadpool/Marvel Comics

Wade quickly became a favorite of Killebrew, whose test subjects often lacked resiliency. He tormented Wade until Francis tired of him and convinced Killebrew to finish him off. When Killebrew removed Wade’s heart, however, the regenerative ability they’d been experimenting with activated. Wade came back to life and fought his way out of the facility, freeing any living test subjects along the way. His first “victim” as Deadpool was Francis, who would later be revived, given a cybernetic enhancement and renamed Ajax. Despite Deadpool’s best efforts, Killebrew escaped, though the two would cross paths again.

Deadpool

After his escape from Weapon X, Wade went right back to his life as a mercenary. He adopted his shiny new name, and a number of well-known Marvel villains, including Kingpin and Tolliver, hired him. He first met Cable, who would become a long-time ally and sometimes friend, after being hired to kill him. Thankfully, his attempt failed, and the two eventually formed a unique bond.

Cable and Deadpool Variant Comics/YouTube

Deadpool spent years following his Weapon X escape working doggedly as a mercenary. He made a few new enemies in characters like Madcap, Typhoid and Thanos, but he eventually got bored by the monotony of his life and switched things up. He kidnapped Blind Al and moved her into his guest room. Deadpool befriended—if you can call it that—Weasel and Bob, Agent of Hydra. He even made a few attempts to be a good guy. Usually, these went up in flames.

Spider-Man and Deadpool Deadpool/Marvel Comics

Generally, Wade’s desire to emulate some of his heroes (looking at you, Spidey) was the driving force behind his shift into heroism. His relationships with other heroes often formed the base for his storylines, as was the case for years with Cable. Since then, Wade has teamed up with numerous other heroes, from Hercules to Spider-Man, usually causing hilarity-infused chaos for the established heroes.

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Deadpool’s powers and abilities

Does Deadpool’s impressive ability to talk his way into, and then out of, trouble count as a superpower? At the very least, Wade’s approach to communication is an art. Despite not being appreciated by the majority of people he engages, Deadpool’s quick wit and clever quips are sometimes the only tools he uses in a fight. While he may look like a relatively unintelligent character, he often displays surprising skill in strategy and comprehension. Plus, Wade speaks a number of languages, including German and Japanese, but he usually pretends otherwise.

Deadpool Deadpool/Marvel Comics

A clever tongue is not the only weapon Wade brings to the table. His background as a soldier-turned-mercenary taught him excellent combat skills. He is an expert marksman, and his hand-to-hand skills are nearly unmatched. He is extremely capable with his swords. Not to mention, his near-immortality has aided him countless times.

Headless Deadpool Variant Comics/YouTube

Wade’s healing factor is unique. It mimics Wolverine’s in many ways, however, Wade’s physiology shapes his healing ability. Because of his cancer-riddled body, Wade’s healing factor can only work for him. Unlike Wolverine, whose healing ability has been replicated and passed on (you know, to Wade), all attempts to recreate Wade’s healing factor have failed. In fact, Wade once used his healing ability’s unique traits—and his brain—to partially take down an invasion by the Skrulls. Wade’s healing factor got an upgrade after a fling with Lady Death prompted a jealous Thanos—who desperately sought her affections—to curse Wade with eternal life. Now, there is no established method through which Wade’s existence can end.

Then there’s the fact that Wade understands his status as a comic book character. He is one of very few fictional characters to break the fourth wall. As a result, he often uses his knowledge of the “outside world” to his advantage.

Deadpool’s team affiliations

Deadpool’s unorthodox methods tend to place him closer to villain than hero. For many, the word “anti-hero” brings to mind a man clothed all in black sporting a menacing cowl. Batman, however, is a hero through and through, despite his occasionally extreme methods. Deadpool fits much more comfortably in the anti-hero role. He fights bad guys but doesn’t adhere to the same rules and regulations most heroes do. Most notably, he kills. Deadpool has no qualms about ending a life, particularly one of someone he believes deserving. This simple fact has isolated Deadpool throughout his career. It was also the cause behind his exclusion from teams. Despite all this, and his history of violence and inappropriate language, Deadpool has managed to find his way onto a few prominent superhero teams.

Captain America, Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D.

Deadpool has had multiple short-term flings with celebrated superhero squads. Typically, his time as a hero ended in flames, but occasionally the red-clad mercenary managed to do some good first.

Deadpool and Captain America Deadpool/Marvel Comics

When teamed up with Captain America, Deadpool managed to halt a dangerous invading alien entity. During his time with S.H.I.E.L.D., Deadpool was instrumental in pushing back the Skrulls invasion, despite never getting credit for his deeds. Thanks, Norman Osborn.

Deadpool Corps

How many Deadpools is too many? If you ask the writers at Marvel, there can never be too many katana-wielding badasses in the world. With that in mind, they created the Deadpool Corps, a collection of alternate Deadpools all gathered up in a tidy team. Among the members are Lady Deadpool, Kidpool, Headpool, and Dogpool.

Deadpool Corps Variant Comics/YouTube

Lady Deadpool comes from an alternate version of Earth, where a fascist American government—that Captain America leads—removed all rights and liberties of the American people. Headpool, on the other hand (or should I say head), came from the Marvel Zombies universe. As a result, Headpool exists as a fully sentient zombie head. Kidpool’s world sees Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters shifted into a boarding school for mutant boys, which the ambitious young Deadpool attended. Finally, Dogpool is from the parody “Mascara-X” project. There, scientists sought a product that would give their clients eternal youth. Their experimentation on a dog, whom they assumed dead and disposed of, saw the birth of the one and only Deadpool dog.

Heroes for Hire

Deadpool was far from the founder of this particular team. The Heroes for Hire had seen multiple iterations created and disbanded before Deadpool first graced comic books. When Deadpool got his hands on the team, however, he created his own short-lived roster of superheroes.

Deadpool Heroes for Hire Heroes for Hire/Marvel Comics

Among Deadpool’s Heroes for Hire were a number of lesser-known characters. Solo, Madcap, Slapstick, Foolkiller, Terror, and Stingray were all members of the team. Unfortunately, their title didn’t last long. Matt Murdock and Luke Cage sought swift litigation after the establishment of Deadpool’s new group. Forced by the law to change their name, Deadpool’s team became known as Mercs for Money.

Deadpool’s relationships

As you may have guessed from the two very popular films, Deadpool is a bit of a romantic. Despite his unfortunate nausea-inducing looks, Wade has always had a soft spot for women — and Spider-Man. Considering the web-slinger is canonically in high school in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, Wade has wisely kept any lustful feelings to himself.

Truthfully, Deadpool’s sexual orientation has been questioned for years. His long-term relationships all tend to be with women, but writers have heavily indicated that the Merc finds people of all genders and sexual identities attractive. Thanks to a statement from Nicieza in 2015, we gained a deeper understanding of his sexual orientation. “Deadpool is whatever sexual inclination his brain tells him he is in THAT moment,” he wrote. “And then the moment passes.”

Vanessa

One of the most prominent and impacting relationships Wade Wilson ever had was with Vanessa Carlysle. Back in his mercenary days, Wade frequented a sex worker named Vanessa. The two formed a deep bond, and they eventually began a relationship in earnest. Unfortunately, Wade’s discovery of his cancer and subsequent signing onto Weapon X interrupted their plans for the future. For years, the two were apart. Wade traveled the world to meet new, exciting people and kill them, and Vanessa became a mercenary herself.

Deadpool - Copycat Deadpool/Marvel Comics

Now known as Copycat—with a power portfolio to match her name—Vanessa joined X-Force. She and Deadpool clashed frequently as each one flipped between good guy and bad guy. Copycat used her shapeshifting ability to torment Wade on several occasions, usually in pursuit of ruining his romantic prospects. She was very successful in most of these attempts, thanks in part to Wade’s tendency toward self-sabotage.

Lady Death

With Thanos officially dead in the MCU, it’s unlikely we will see many stories revolving around his paramour Lady Death. The physical embodiment of death was, in Marvel comics, Thanos’ primary motivation for many of his evil deeds. Thanos hoped to prove his love to the cloaked cosmic entity by destroying all life. Unfortunately for Thanos, his feelings appeared perpetually unrequited, and he served more often as a tool for death than a love interest.

Deadpool - Lady Death Variant Comics/YouTube

Deadpool, however, managed to catch Mistress Death’s eye on several occasions, thanks to his frequent brushes with the afterlife. After his hundredth-or-so visit to the other side, Deadpool began to develop feelings for the cloaked entity and sought to end his life and join her eternally. A jealous Thanos refused to let this happen, cursing Deadpool with immortality in a quest to forever keep the two apart.

Shiklah

Deadpool loves himself a shapeshifter. This form-changing succubus ruled over the monster world long before humans came to be, but her father sealed her away for millennia. Eventually, Deadpool freed Shiklah on a job from Dracula, who hoped to make her his wife. Once she was free, Shiklah and Deadpool quickly formed a bond, and despite Wade’s reservations, they found themselves married in no time.

Deadpool - Shiklah Deadpool/Marvel Comics

Shiklah, who can absorb life force through a good makeout sesh, attempted to drain the Merc With a Mouth on several occasions. Thanks to his healing factor, these attempts typically resulted in nothing more than a brief period of unconsciousness. Deadpool’s misfortune in the area of love saw this relationship quickly fail, though the former couple ended on relatively good terms. When you’re dealing with the Queen of the Undead, good terms are really the best you can hope for.

Siryn

Siryn is perhaps the healthiest of Deadpool’s relationships. She was instrumental in Deadpool’s eventual turn toward real heroism. After joining X-Force, Siryn, whose real name is Theresa Cassidy, discovered that her teammate Warpath had developed feelings for her. Theresa, however, only had eyes for Wade.

Deadpool and Siryn Deadpool/Marvel Comics

Even after discovering the scars concealed under his mask, Theresa’s interest in Wade persisted. Her tender heart and welcoming nature changed Wade for the better, repeatedly encouraging him to rise above his base instincts. While their relationship never blossomed into anything official, the duo often found opportunities to assist each other. When Theresa lost her voice—a necessary aspect of her powers—thanks to Feral, Deadpool swooped in to save the day with a dose of Wolverine’s blood.

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Nahila Bonfiglio

Nahila Bonfiglio

Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.